MTN GROUP, Africa’s largest cellular operator, is nearing a deal to sell its Nigerian base station network, valued at more than $1 billion (R10bn), to IHS Holding, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. An agreement to sell the business, which comprises about 11 000 towers, was expected to be signed within the next few weeks, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information was private. Carriers in Africa are offloading towers, which cost more to run on the continent than in other parts of the world because of the need for back-up generators and batteries to guard against power failures. Bharti Airtel and Orange were planning to sell mobile tower networks in Africa, people familiar with the matter said in March. IHS, Africa’s largest independent telecoms infrastructure firm by number of towers managed, raised $490 million in equity and debt from investors including Goldman Sachs in March to fund acquisitions and investments. IHS agreed to buy more than 2 000 towers from Etisalat Nigeria earlier this month and said it would invest a further $100m in the towers acquired. Chief executive Issam Darwish pledged last year to more than double the company’s assets to 20 000 towers under management by 2016. An MTN spokesman could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for IHS in London had no immediate comment. MTN shares rose 1.07 percent to close at R236.85 yesterday. – Bloomberg